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The journey of the Fab 4 to captaincy

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The moment the Fab 4 - Joe Root, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Virat Kohli - made their respective international debuts, it was clear that all 4 would eventually become captain of their country’s cricket teams. As Joe Root is the last of the quartet to join the captain’s club, the era of Fab 4 has truly begun. All of them will face different challenges while in charge. Let’s have a look at each one.

Virat_Kohli_Test_Cricket_Captain_India1. Virat Kohli:

Kohli’s leadership qualities were highlighted when India won the Under-19 World Cup in 2008 under him. The journey from youth player to leader of the national team came at a rapid pace for Virat Kohli. In a 2010 Tri Series in Zimbabwe, in a second string team, Kohli was named Vice Captain. Those were the first signs that the BCCI was looking at Virat Kohli as a leader in future.

From a teenager he had become a batsman who took responsibility on his shoulders while chasing. He became the first Indian batsman to score a century on World Cup debut with an unbeaten 100. Kohli ended up as the leading run-getter in ODIs for the year 2011, with 1381 runs from 34 matches at 47.62 and four centuries.

Kohli’s first stint in charge came when RCB made him captain for the 2013 IPL. RCB ended 5th, but Kohli’s captaincy impressed many. India toured West Indies immediately after that and BCCI handed over ODI captaincy to Virat Kohli for the first time. Though India won the series, Kohli had to face first challenge as captain – a fight between a senior and junior player, Raina and Jadeja, on field. Though it was a small incident, it could have affected Kohli’s first tour as captain very badly. However, Kohli handled the situation very well. From there he matured.

 

Kohli’s main concerns as captain have always been off the field rather than on the field. He was appointed as captain in Tests during the tough tour down under in 2014/15. He looked confident on field as he almost took India to victory single handily with centuries in both innings. Virat always outperforms others but the key challenge would be to take everyone along with him.

 

The latest dispute between him and Anil Kumble is another example of how Virat needs to become responsible off the field too. With Ravi Shastri’s appointment as coach, Kohli can learn a thing or two on becoming a good captain off the field as well.

 

2. Steve Smith:Steve_Smith_Australia_cricket

After making his international debut in 2010, Steve Smith moved up the Australian batting order and the ICC batting rankings. In 2013, he was named Vice Captain of the Australia A team for their tour to England. He scored 133 runs against Ireland in a first class match and showed promise of being a top order batsman.

He was called into the Australian Squad for the Ashes in England. Australia couldn’t win Ashes but Smith scored his maiden Test ton. He again played in Ashes on home soil and produced 327 runs at an average of 36 with 2 centuries. Australia toured South Africa after Ashes victory. Smith was again instrumental in his batting that helped Australia win a series against South Africa.

Smith’s consistent performances made him a candidate to follow Michael Clarke as captain. In India’s 2014/15 tour of Australia, Steve Smith was named Vice Captain after Clarke faced injury concerns and made his captaincy debut in the 2nd Test. He scored 133 in that match and won the series 2-0. Smith also became the first Australian skipper to open their captaincy with three consecutive centuries. Smith was handed his first ODI match as skipper in the following Tri-Series against England and India.

Michael Clarke retired after the 3-2 Ashes defeat in 2015 and Smith was appointed as the full-time captain of the Australian team.

Everything was going well until Australia toured Sri Lanka in 2016. Smith faced his first challenge as captain in the sub-continent. Australia had never lost a Test series against Sri Lanka, but this time the islanders whitewashed the bigger islanders 3-0. Things got tougher for him when Australia suffered a 5-0 ODI whitewash in South Africa. Later that year, South Africa toured Australia and won the first 2 Tests. Smith joined the notorious list of Australian captains to lose 5 straight Test matches. Questions were raised on his style of captaincy.

Things turned around as Australia won home series against Pakistan and New Zealand. After that, Smith faced the biggest challenge of his captaincy when Australia toured India. Australia won the 1st match comprehensively and looked all set to bag the series in the 2nd Test but India fought back well to eventually win a series 2-1. There were lots of controversies due to sledging and misuse of DRS. Smith’s sportsmanship was called in to question because of his DRS decisions. Despite all this, Smith received praise for his team’s performance in sub-continent.

Immediately after test series, Smith was handed over captaincy of Rising Pune Supergiant team. He had a huge responsibility given that in last IPL season, Supergiants failed to make an impact. He led from front to take RPS into final.

 

The challenge Steve Smith now facing is again off the field. There has been a huge dispute between the Australian Cricketers Association and Cricket Australia. As captain, Smith has to find an answer from players’ perspective. Overall, he has had mixed results as captain. The upcoming years will decide whether can match the legacy of previous Australian Captains.

 

Kane_Williamson_New_Zealand_Test_cricket3. Kane Williamson:

At the age of 17, Kane Williamson led the New Zealand Under-19 side in the 2008 World Cup in Malaysia. New Zealand reached the semi-final where they lost India. In March 2010, Williamson was named in the New Zealand Test squad for the second Test against Australia but ultimately did not play in the match. This shows the talent Williamson has got and selectors were already thinking of long term with regards to New Zealand cricket.

Later that year, he made his test debut against India. In his first innings he scored 131 runs off 299 balls and became the eighth New Zealand player to score a century on Test debut and later scored 161 against West Indies in June 2014. It was his second test century of the series and helped secure a rare away test series victory for his side. Williamson finished as the leading overall run scorer in the series with 413 runs. Later that year, when Brendon McCullum was rested, Williamson was his natural successor and made his ODI and T20 captainship debut. 

 

In 2015 he scored his highest individual test score of 242* against Sri Lanka. He also ended 2015 with 2,692 runs, the highest score across all forms of international cricket for the year, and third highest total in a single year.

 

2016 was a great year for Kane Williamson. He took over as captain of New Zealand across all forms of cricket after the retirement of Brendon McCullum, beginning with the World T20 in India. He also picked up NZ player of the year, Test player of the year and the Redpath Cup for top batsman in first class cricket for the second year in a row.

Unlike, Virat Kohli and Steve Smith, Williamson has on field problems to address. New Zealand has been very inconsistent with their performances after 2015. They lost a Test series 3-0 in India. In the Champions Trophy, they got defeated by Bangladesh. Kane Williamson is just 26 and there are high chances that he will lead the team at least for next 5-6 years, including 2019 World Cup. Kane Williamson’s task will be to bring out the best in others in the team.

One advantage he has is the established pace bowling attack with Southee, Boult and McClenaghan. But New Zealand’s batting will remain a worry for Williamson.

 

Joe_Root_England_cricket4. Joe Root

The last of the Fab 4 to become captain is Joe Root. He made his debut for England in the 2012 Test series in India and made his ODI and Twenty20 International debuts on the same tour. In 2013, on home ground at Headingley, he scored his maiden Test century against New Zealand.

He cemented his place in team with brilliant performances against Sri Lanka, India and West Indies in the following years. His batting blossomed during 2015 Ashes which England won at home, and he was named man of the series for his 460 runs.

In limited overs, his performances have been brilliant. In the 2016 T20 World Cup, he made a 36-ball 54 to rescue his team to a par total of 155. A memorable performance was his 83 run knock against South Africa, which inspired England chased down 229. Though Eoin Morgan is captain of ODI and T20 teams, Root is likely to take over as captain in near future.

 

Root has taken over Test captaincy from Alastair Cook. One of his biggest challenges will be surviving the visiting South Africans followed by the Ashes tour down under later this year. In the near future, he won’t have the support of Anderson, Broad and Cook. He might need to re-shuffle the batting order and experiment with it.

 

Though Root was made captain for his magnificent performances, some other players like Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad were also interviewed for the post. Root will also face pressure to deliver as captain. If England can’t consistently win series at home and occasionally abroad, he might lose the captaincy.

So far he has shown some good signs against South Africa. In his 1st Test as captain, he scored a century to join the club of Kohli, Williamson and Smith. But with the series levelled at 1-1, it will be interesting to see how Root approaches the game and can he win his first series as captain.

 

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